A display of Ekso Bionics exoskeletons. Photo: Liz Hafalia / The Chronicle

Ekso Bionics Wearable Robots Help with Rehab

Occasionally in the world of sports, a player suffers a debilitating injury that leaves him or her unable to walk or move about freely. Equally debilitating can be the after-effects of a stroke, ranging from loss of mobility or use of extremities.

The latest version of an ekso skeleton can help people disabled by accidents or bodily disease.

In a recent San Francisco Chronicle article by Benny Evangilista, the possibility of a miracle for physically debilitated patients comes in the form of an exoskeleton that supports or enhances physical strength, endurance and mobility. Anyone who has seen the film “Aliens” with Sigourney Weaver, who fights off an alien wearing a mechanized skeleton, is familiar with the concept.

For stroke survivor Jess McNair, each step remains slow and laborious. But the first time the 32-year-old former bartender wore a robotic exoskeleton that a Richmond company developed, she said she felt hope for recovering.

“It was the first time that I had really felt what it was like to walk again, because I had to relearn all that,” the Walnut Creek resident said. “It’s hard not to think pessimistically after all of this. But getting into the machine and feeling what it was like to walk again gave me motivation to get better.”

Some industrial uses for these ekso suits are currently in use at several American companies.  Ford Motor Co., for example, is testing the EksoVest, which is worn by auto assembly line workers to help boost their arms and shoulders for tasks that require them to perform overhead tasks thousands of times per day, to help reduce fatigue and injuries.

These suits run about $200,000 a piece, so they’re not available to patients yet, but they are making it possible to program suits for people with little muscle movement to no control at all.

Other companies, like Hyundai and Panasonic, are developing similar suits to help laborers in Japan, whose working population may halve over the next half-century.

Ekso Bionics®  was founded in 2005, and designs cutting-edge, innovative wearable robots that range from helping those with paralysis to stand up and walk, to enhancing human capabilities on job sites across the globe. The company is headquartered in the Bay Area and is listed on the Nasdaq Capital Market under the symbol EKSO. For more information, visit: www.eksobionics.com.

read more at sfchronicle.com